Maintaining good relationships with the people you deal with is essential to a happy life.

This is true for all relationships, from our family and friends to people we don’t see too often but who have a big impact on our lives – people like doctors and dentists. Everything works better when we trust each other.

Patient and doctor

Better response

In order to minimise the chances of suffering a health-related problem – like medical negligence – you could do better when you trust your doctor.

A 2014 Dutch multi-institutional study found that if you trust your doctor, you’re more likely to respond well to treatment. It’s pretty clear why. If you trust them, you’ll be more likely to try any new drugs they suggest and work with them on a treatment plan. Then you’ll be more likely to follow it.

You’ll also be more likely to share any health-related developments with them and be honest about your medical history. You’ll also probably take up more screening tests and even have better controlled diabetes and blood pressure.

So there are definite advantages to trusting your doctors. But when you realise that you lack this sort of relationship with your existing physician, how do you find one that you can trust?

Ask for recommendations

When you’re in the market for a new doctor, the first thing you should do is ask your friends and family for their recommendations. They’ll have dealt with a variety of doctors in the past, so they’ll know who’s handled their complaints best.

But maybe more importantly, they’ll also know who they haven’t had good experiences with. If your loved ones have a good reason for warning you away from them, these will be doctors to avoid.

If you’re looking for a particular specialist, like a pediatrician, ask for a recommendation from someone who will have dealt with this kind of doctor. There’s not much point in asking your parents about a pediatrician if they haven’t seen one in 20 years, after all.

Examine their history

Once you have your recommendations, you can look into the work histories of those who have been suggested. Check out any reports of anything suggesting malpractice or disciplinary concerns. If you find anything that worries you – like multiple malpractice claims – you’ll probably want to take their name off your list of possibilities.

You can also look into whether they’re board-certified for what you’d be visiting them for. An online search can reveal this information. Finding the most qualified physicians is the first step to working with one you can trust.

Meet them

Although you’ve taken on board the recommendations of those close to you and you’ve done your own research into their history, you won’t know whether you can trust a doctor until you meet them in the flesh.

Most doctors are happy to have a face-to-face interview with prospective patients, so check out whether this is a possibility. There may be a cost to do this, but it will be worth it when you can figure out if you’re going to be able to work with them.

When you’re there, ask everything you want to know. Find out about costs – such as whether they’ll charge for a phone consultation – and exactly how contactable they’ll be. Make a list of questions you want to ask ahead of time so you don’t forget anything during the meeting.

You can use this appointment to evaluate whether you think the doctor really engaged with you and took your concerns seriously. This is a good indicator of a future relationship, so it could be worth doing with a couple of different doctors you’ve considered.

If you and your doctor can trust each other, you’ll probably have a much better chance of successful treatments. So do your homework and find the right person for you.

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